Who needs a part-time job when you can get paid for seeking out smut, selling your hair, or sending text messages?
Joining a Virtual Jury
Summon your inner Judge Judy, pals: It's time to head to court. Virtual court, that is.
Confused? Here's the scoop: A growing number of sites are now offering cash if you'll help lawyers simulate a trial. And you can even do it in your pajamas.
"Attorneys for years have thought they're kind of psychologists when it comes to picking juries," explains Chris Bagby, founder of eJury.com. "The more demographic background we can get them about each juror, the better off they are."
eJury and other similar sites assemble region-specific pools of people to review cases, ranging from a couple of pages to more than a dozen, and then give their opinions on a handful of questions. This gives lawyers insight into how different members of a real jury might respond to arguments when the case actually goes to court.
"It helps them prepare for trial and hopefully present a better case to the jury," says Bagby, himself an attorney with 18 years of practice under his belt.
eJury varies its pay based on how involved each case is. An average case can earn you around $5 to $10.
Looking for Porn
Yep, you read correctly: Seeking out smut can earn you shekels. But not in the way you might expect.
Let's just get this out of the way now: You can't earn cash by clicking over to whatever sort of weird stuff you're into. You can, however, make a few bucks by directing your prurient interests to a more productive place.
Meet CrowdFlower. Founded in 2007, the agency works with online businesses to help them handle random jobs -- you know, like looking for nudie pics.
"Sites that allow user-generated content uploads often contract us to make sure porn doesn't get uploaded," explains Lukas Biewald, CrowdFlower's founder and CEO.
So how does it work? A business reaches out to Biewald and explains what kind of work it needs done. Biewald then turns to his workforce -- driven by online staffing agencies like Amazon's Mechanical Turk and LiveWork -- to find the right people for the job.
Paula Harrell is one of those people.
"I've seen some funny pictures," Harrell says. "Some you had to zoom to see if they were revealing."
Another CrowdFlower regular, Andrew Engle, is a bit less coy about what he's encountered.
"It's nuts, man!" Engle laughs. "You'll see some dude in the background with his pants down or something. Sometimes I don't want to tell anybody what I saw!"
CrowdFlower's tasks pay anywhere from $1 to $40, depending on their complexity and how urgently they're needed. They aren't limited only to porn surfing, either: The agency also handles numerous other tasks such as address verification, data sorting, and social media analysis.
But those make for far less impressive date-night conversations.
Helping Kids with Homework
Helping a high schooler with algebra from seven states away may seem somewhat unusual, but in the Web-connected world, it's easy to do -- and it can add up to a lot of extra cash.
Sites like Tutor.com create virtual classrooms where you can sign up to tutor students. You don't have to be a professional teacher to pull it off, either: Anyone with the right smarts can score a spot.
Joshua Riddell started tutoring online when he was a grad student. Now a full-time software engineer, Riddell continues to work in his spare time as a Tutor.com mentor.
"To not have to get dressed and drive somewhere -- to be able to just sit down at a computer at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m. and there's a job -- it's well worth it," he says. "You can make some really good money."
Riddell tutors students on numerous subjects, but you can also opt to specialize: Most online tutoring sites serve students from elementary school-level all the way through high school or even college. The subjects typically include English, math, science, and social studies.
Hawking Your Hair
Darling, your locks are worth a million. It may sound strange, but people are actually making decent money by selling the strands right off their pretty little heads.
Sites like TheHairTrader.com specialize in online hair sales. Anyone can post a listing for free, then potential hair-buyers -- a title I'm guessing folks don't proudly display on their business cards -- bid on the soon-to-be-chopped tresses. (Most use the hair for wigs, extensions, and dolls.) An average bundle brings in around $500, while the really impressive manes go for thousands.
The site's current sales record? A healthy $3,600 for 27 inches of "thick, gorgeously long, body-filled" hair. Geez...Vidal himself couldn't write a better description.
It wasn't just length or body that made the $3,600 hair so special, though: According to its former owner, the fibers had never been dyed, permed, or mechanically dried. That's what people in the biz call "virgin hair" -- yes, seriously -- and hair-buyers are willing to pay a pretty penny for it.
Jamie Benzies is a proud hair virgin who's hoping to cash in. His 15-inches of curls are described on the site as "beautiful and thick tawny brown."
While Benzies says he's gotten a fair amount of spammy responses to his ad, he's also attracted some genuine interest -- and he's optimistic he'll end up walking away with his wallet well-filled.
"I'm effectively making money for something that I was otherwise going to throw away," Benzies says.
Being an Online Life Coach
Move over, Tony Robbins: The online life coach has arrived.
Despite its "social media expert"-reminiscent name, the job of online life coach is actually a real paying position -- and one that has some pretty appealing perks, too.
"There's no demand on hours or time zones," says Sara Hecht, director of operations for MyPrivateCoach.com. "You coach clients according to your schedule and your preferences, and you're very free to create your own structure within the program."
The program could be anything from weight loss to business development. There are also slightly more saucy subjects -- things like love, sex, and online dating success.
Getting a gig as an online life coach isn't necessarily easy. Most of the reputable sites require some type of relevant training in your area of expertise; some, including MyPrivateCoach.com, offer their own in-site training programs if you need a helping hand.
Would you expect anything less from a bunch of professional coaches?
Sending Text Messages
Are you an obsessive texter? You might just be able to get paid for it.
You've probably heard of ChaCha, the service that lets you text in any question and get an answer back in minutes. But you might not know you could be the one on the other end, receiving all sorts of questions and tapping back responses.
ChaCha guides, as they're called, sign in to answer questions anytime they like, for as long as they like. They get paid between 10 and 20 cents per question. It may not seem like a lot, but if you're quick enough, it can be a painless way to put extra bills in your back pocket while you're sitting around at home.
"I do it whenever I want, on the spur of the moment," says Donna Tinus, a mother of three who works as a ChaCha guide in her spare time. "I might just work for half an hour while I'm watching a show, or sometimes I'll put a couple solid hours into it here and there."
Tinus estimates she spends around 20 to 30 hours a week doing the ChaCha cha-cha. From that, she earns enough to cover all the groceries for her family of five.
"You couldn't make a living out of it, but it's very good for someone who's a mother or a college student and wants to make some extra money," she says.
So, the big question: What kind of questions does a ChaCha guide really get? Tinus says there's plenty of what you would expect -- sex, sex, and a little more sex -- but there are also always entertaining surprises.
Some of the stranger questions Tinus says she's received:
How many hamsters would it take to get to the moon?
Does Luke Skywalker wear tighty-whities or boxers?
What is the best way to get my cat out of my dryer hose?
How many golf balls fit in a car?
Hang on a sec -- is it just me, or do these sound eerily similar to those crazy Google interview questions?
Um, Larry? Sergey? Someone has some explaining to do.
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